A Travellerspoint blog

Last stop - Singapore

overcast 31 °C
View Honeymoon on jgjourney's travel map.

We got to Singapore around noon and took the metro into the city. Our bags are the heaviest they've been so it was quite the task to take the train for over an hour with multiple changes, then walk through Chinatown in the extreme heat to find our hotel. We finally found it though and it was in the perfect location - right in the middle of all the action in Chinatown.

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right in the middle of the action in Chinatown

We had lunch at a street vendor and started walking around for a bit but it was way too hot to do anything so we went back to our hotel and waited until later to venture out again. That evening we went to a street market, which wasn't as successful for us as previous ones have been, and went to see a temple on our way to Little India. We ate some Indian Food at a local place (we were the only tourists there) and still have found that not too spicy to an Indian person means you'll be wiping away tears to eveyone else.

We went back to Chinatown and walked around the different stalls, and it seemed like the rest of the country was doing the same thing - it was so packed! The infomercial street was particularly interesting - people with microphones showing off different products. We also stayed to watch a Chinese New Year performance for a bit. For those of you at home, this Chinatown is completely different than the one we are used to, and from any of the ones we have experienced in Southeast Asia. It's very clean, no unpleasant odours to speak of, with many colourful and charming buildings. Basically, our previous notions of Singapore turned out to be true - a VERY clean and modern city. While walking around, we commented on how all the buildings look brand new. Later, our cab driver told us of a law where buildings must be renovated every five years. You can tell this is a country that strives for perfection.

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a little different than Yonge/Bloor station

As we were heading out the next day, George noticed a street vendor outside of our hotel that carried loads of the pinapple tarts we loved in Malaysia. We were so excited we ended up buying about seven containers of them. So maybe we went a little overboard, but they were so good! After that we walked around a large indoor market in Chinatown, then met up with our British friends who we initially met in Vietnam and did basically the same trip only a few days apart from each other. We ate at a Vietnamese restaurant (how fitting) and shared our experiences - we loved this place, hated this place, and got ripped off at this place! We took the train together and parted ways, as they were flying home that night and us the next morning.

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our British friends Claire and Gareth - we all look a little more sun-kissed than when we first met

The rest of the day was spent walking around the city and seeing the tallest ferris wheel in the world as well as the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, a really cool structure that George was gawking at for a while (he saw it on the Discovery Channel). We also walked down a street very similar to Bloor Street except more modern and upscale and went into some malls that were a little out of our price range (by little we mean a lot). We came to the conclusion that Singapore is one of the highest end cities that probably exists. For the last night of our trip, we ate at another food stall in Chinatown and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Singapore, the perfect city to end our journey with.

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apparently circling the Fountain of Wealth three times brings you wealth - is it wrong that we circled it 27 times?

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another Discovery Channel episode come to life

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nothing bettter than phad thai for our last meal

The next day we began our long 20 hour journey home and although we were sad that our travels had come to an end, we were excited to see our family and friends again. Our flight from Singapore to Beijing was fine, however, once landing in Beijing we learned that our flight to Toronto had been cancelled! We were not prepared for this and were very frustrated to find that the Chinese Air Canada staff was less than helpful and pretty much didn't know what they were doing. After arguing with them for another way home, being walked around the airport three times for immigration, and dealing with the staff who always had a dumbstruck look on their faces for some reason, it was clear we were spending the night in Beijing.

Besides not being able to see our families for another day, it didn't end up being too bad since our hotel was very nice (our suite had two bathrooms! A far cry from a box with a toilet and showerhead next to it) and we had buffet meals, which George was extremely excited about. It looks like things are on track today as we sit here in the airport and wait for our flight to board. And so our journey has come to an end. We've had a spectacular time and have learned a lot about the world and each other over the last two months (George can be very assertive if he has to be!). We've visited some places that have made us appreciate our country so much more and some places even Canadians could learn a lot from. We've listened to war stories, met incredibly resiliant and kind people, watched sunsets on top of thousand year old temples, bathed with elephants, and experienced what the future of technology looks like. It has been an incredible adventure and although our love for travelling has only gotten stronger, so has our love for our families. We can't wait to see you all!

Until the next adventure...

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finally on our way home

Posted by jgjourney 23:29 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Final days on the beach in Seminyak

overcast 27 °C
View Honeymoon on jgjourney's travel map.

We arrived in Seminyak, a beach town in Bali filled with modern restaurants and nice shops. After a bunch of rain in Ubud we were hoping for some nice weather and looking forward to the beach. We headed straight there after checking in and found that the part of beach closest to our hotel was strictly used for religious ceremonies - no swimming allowed. Great. It directed us to walk down the beach and so we did, hoping to find some sand as the tide was in and covered pretty much all of it. So we walked and walked, and walked (my "no walking" request was ignored yet again) and finally got to the beach that everyone seemed to be at.

The water was quite rough and not the nice turquoise blue colour that Lembongan was, although we knew this would be the case before we came. The most popular beaches aren't the most beautiful ones for some reason. I still went in the water and got tossed around by the waves while George "watched our bags", which I guess he does while sleeping?? Interesting.

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enjoying the black sand beach

That evening we went to the town square, a little area of markets, shops, and live music. We had dinner and listened to the band, who sounded so cute singing English music with Balinese accents.

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our dinner atmosphere for the evening

The next day we decided to go to Kuta, the most popular beach in Bali, which is just down the street from Seminyak. Our cab driver told us the beach was closed due to dead fish and smelliness and tried to take us to another beach further away, however, being conned has been a running theme during this trip so we decided to go check out this fish problem for ourselves. Surprisingly enough, no dead fish in site. About five minutes after that scam, we got ripped off by a sketchy money changer, who are known to pocket your cash. Let's just say the day wasn't off to a very good start. But George got our money back (they were probably scared of his abnormal size and stature) so no harm done. Despite these small situations that happen everywhere, Bali is full of the nicest people we have ever come into contact with. They are so painfully nice and smiley we just want to take them home with us. The word we use to describe them - "genteel".

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the quest for a McDonald's chocolate dipped cone is finally over!

Our day at Kuta beach was fun - the waves were even bigger than the previous day and there was a lot of surfing going on, which was fun to watch. Being INCREDIBLY hot, we had to go in the water despite the big waves to cool ourselves down, which led to being engulfed by waves and sucking up way too much salt water. When we had enough with the beach we walked down yet another market street and then went back to our hotel in Seminyak. That night we went to a fantastic trendy Italian restaurant and waited for a table for the first time in two months. But it was worth it!

Our last day in Seminyak we decided to use the shuttle service provided by the hotel and told them to take us to the beach. They ended up taking us to the same unswimmable religious spot as before (why would they take us to a beach we can't tan or swim at?) so this time we walked in the opposite direction hoping to find a good section. Well, it didn't happen so we took a cab (no more walking) to the same section we found the first day. What's with these people and beaches you can't swim at? We spent a good portion of our beach time boogie boarding, something neither of us has done before, and had a blast! Water up our noses, sand in our hair, stomachs and chests rubbed raw from the boards, it was great. Coming home from dinner that night, a big thunderstorm rolled through and lasted for quite a while, so we enjoyed it from our room this time instead of being stuck somewhere for hours like before.

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ridin' the waves and eat'n some seaweed

Now we are on a plane to the last stop of our adventure - Singapore. We'll try to make our last days good ones!

Posted by jgjourney 00:14 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (and extras)

An ongoing list of all ways we've been getting around

Chronological Sequence

Plane - Toronto to Hong Kong - (16 hrs)
Plane - Hong Kong to Bangkok - (2 hrs)
Plane - Bangkok to Hanoi - (1.25 hrs)
Mini Bus - Hanoi to Ha Long Bay - (3.5 hrs)
Mini Bus - Ha Long Bay to Hanoi - (3.5 hrs)
Train/Mini Bus - Hanoi to Sa Pa - (7 hrs + 1 hr)
Mini Bus/Train - Sa Pa to Hanoi - (1 hr + 7 hrs)
Plane/Taxi - Hanoi to Hoi An - (1.5 hrs + 0.5 hrs)
Taxi/Plane - Hoi An to Saigon - (0.5 hrs + 1.5 hrs)
Bus - Saigon to My Tho - (3 hrs)
Boat - My Tho to Can Tho - (2 hrs)
Bus - Can Tho to Chau Doc - (4hrs)
Boat/Mini Bus - Chau Doc to Phnom Penh - (8 hrs + 2 hrs)
Bus - Phnom Penh to Siem Reap - (4hrs)
Bus - Siem Reap to Bangkok - (4hrs + 2 hrs border wait + 4.5 hours)
Bus - Bangkok to Kanchanaburi - (2 hrs)
Minibus - Kanchanaburi to Cha-Am - (2.5 hrs)
Minibus - Cha-Am to Hua Hin - (0.5 hrs)
Bus - Hua Hin to Phuket - (9 hrs)
Boat - Phuket to Koh Phi Phi - (2 hours)
Boat - Koh Phi Phi to Phuket - (2 hours)
Plane - Pkuhet to Penang - (1.25 hours)
Bus - Penang to Kuala Lumpur - (4 hours)
Bus - Kuala Lumpur to Melaka - (2 hours)
Bus - Melaka to Kuala Lumpur - (2 hours)
Plane - Kuala Lumpur to Bali / Sanur - (3 hours)
Boat - Sanur to Lembongan Island - (1.5 hours)
Boat/Van - Lembongan Island to Ubud - (0.5 hours + 1 hour)
Taxi - Ubud to Seminyak - (1 hour)
Plane - Seminyak to Singapore (2.75 hours)

Planes

Boeing 777 - Toronto to Hong Kong (15.5 hours)
Boeing 747 - Hong Kong to Bangkok (2.5 hours)
Boeing 737 - Hanoi to Da Nang/Hoi An (1.25 hours)
Airbus A330 - Bangkok to Hanoi (1.5 hours)
Airbus A330 - Da Nang/Hoi An to Saigon (otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh City) (1.25 hours)
ATR 72-500 - Phuket to Penang (1.25 hours)
Boeing 737 - Kuala Lumpur to Bali (3 hours)
Airbus A320 - Bali to Singapore (2.75 hours)
Boeing 777 - Singapore to Beijing (6 hours)
Boeing 777 - Beijing to Toronto (13 hours)

Trains

Hanoi - Lao Cai - Overnight (8 hours)
Lao Cai - Hanoi - Overnight (8 hours)

Buses (and minivans they call buses)

Taxis - Hanoi / Da Nang
Van - Hanoi to Halong Bay (3.5 hours)
Van - Halong Bay to Hanoi (3.5 hours)
Van - Lao Cai to Sapa (1 hour)
Van - Sapa to Lao Cai (1 hour)
Bus - Saigon to My Tho
Bus - Can Tho to Chau Doc
Van - Some dock to Phnom Penh
Bus - Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Bus - Siem Reap to Border
Bus - Border to Bangkok
Bus - Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
Minibus - Kanchanaburi to Cha Am
Minibus - Cha Am to Hua Hin
Bus - Hua Hin to Phuket
Bus - Penang to Kuala Lumpur
Bus - Kuala Lumpur to Melaka
Bus - Melaka to Kuala Lumpur
Van - Sanur to Ubud
Taxi - Ubud to Seminyak

Boats

Halong Bay Amigo Cruise - Overnight
Mekong Delta Cruise
Chau Doc - Border
Border - Phnom Penh
Phuket - Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi - Phuket
Sanur - Lembongan Island
Lembongan Island - Sanur

Airlines

Air Canada
Thai Airways
JetStar
Firefly
Malaysia Airways
Air Asia
Singapore Airways

Airports

Toronto (Pearson)
Hong Kong
Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi)
Hanoi (Noi Bai)
Da Nang
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)
Phuket
Penang
Kuala Lumpur
Denpasar/Bali (Nguhrah Rai)
Singapore (Changi)
Beijing

Miscellaneous

Hong Kong Metro
Lantau Cable Car
Bangkok Skytrain
Kuala Lumpur Metro
Singapore Metro

Posted by jgjourney 06:50 Comments (0)

Relaxation and Rice Paddies in Ubud

rain 29 °C
View Honeymoon on jgjourney's travel map.

Ubud was pretty much th]e one and only place we booked well in advance of our trip so we were really looking forward to getting here. Our hotel, Alam Jiwa, is a traditional Balinese retreat overlooking rice fields, the perfect setting to set down our bags and stay in one place for four nights. Ubud is known as the artsy and cultural heart of Bali, which you can tell right away by the wood working shops and art galleries everywhere. It really has a good feel to it.

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a little different view from our balcony at home

We decided to walk into town, which means walking through the monkey forest to get to the other side. We've never been so close to so many monkeys (actually macaques - the must scarier type) at once! Although we had some interesting experiences, the first being a monkey charging at George to pick his pocket for the cap of our insect repellent. He was a little startled but then got annoyed after realizing we wouldn't have anything to close our repellent with (which proved to be a problem when it leaked all over the front of George's pants). Our other interaction with the monkeys was when a baby monkey through a greenish-brown slimy substance at me, which landed on my foot. I prefer to think it was moss, but I may be kidding myself. Those monkeys were troublesome little guys.

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our pickpocket enjoying his loot

After cleaning ourselves off, we headed into town and into the big market (market #856). While roaming around, we saw that it was definitely about to rain but we decided to stay in the market and wait until it stopped.We didn't know that what would ensue was massive thunder like we've never heard before, lightening that left a burning smell, and rain so hard that the streets were completely flooded! And all of this lasted well over an hour. When it finally died down a bit, we called our hotel shuttle to come pick us up. That was one serious tropical storm! That night, since our hotel is just outside of the town, we decided to take a walk down the street to a nearby restaurant which meant walking through very strange noises that we couldn't decipher (frog? insect?). To top it all off, when we got back to our room George saw a mouse scurrying about while I was asleep. Let's just say we had a nature-filled day.

Day two we walked around town again and did a bunch of shopping at the market. After the whole day of walking, George made me walk back to our hotel (45 minutes away even though our hotel has a free shuttle). I guess he didn't remember my walking protest just a couple days before. Bali is well known for their cultural performances so that night we went to see one, which was really great and nothing like we expected. It consisted of women acting very spooky, incomprehensible dance routines, and music that belonged in a horror movie. The little guest in our room was caught by the end of the night.

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their performance is enough to give a grown man nightmares - they shouldn't be able to move their eyes like that

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the dance troop with their newest recruit

We woke up the third day to rain so we decided to take advantage of the super cheap spas all over the city. We booked ourselves a Balinese massage and a facial. Well, our spa experience did not go exactly how we imagined. Let's just say we paid for a whole lot of mental anxiety, awkwardness, and pain. The details will forever remain between George and I.

That night we went back up the noise-filled street to for dinner and another Balinese performance, sitting on mats under bamboo huts. It was a great experience! And made us forget about the spa for a while.

For our last day in Ubud we hired a driver to drive us around to all the sites. We started with the Elephant Cave, which was nothing special, then a temple that required climbing up and down many, many stairs, which was interesting. Next were some natural springs followed by the Batur Volcano, which is still active. There was another temple that was less than impressive (when you've gone to Angkor, no other temples measure up), and we finished off with some amazing rice terraces where we ate lunch overlooking the beautiful scenery. It was an interesting day, although we were most impressed by the volcano and rice fields. Basically, Bali is best for its nature, not so much for its man-made attractions, which were a little run down and weren't anything special. Our ride home took much too long because of horrendous traffic, which is surprisingly terrible in Ubud (and most of Bali for that matter).

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we decided not to climb a volcano this time, but enjoyed it from afar

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we know almost everything there is to know about growing rice now

Our next stop is Seminyak, where hopefully we'll get some better weather and good beach time. Who's idea was coming to Bali during rainy season anyway?

Posted by jgjourney 08:01 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

We love Bali! Beautiful Nusa Lembongan

27 °C
View Honeymoon on jgjourney's travel map.

Our anticipation for Bali was high and there couldn't have been a worse time for our flight to be delayed. When we touched down in Bali and weaved our way through all the airport taxis looking for a fare, we eventually got to our destination for the night - the small beach town of Sanur. We decided to make use of the cheap spas and salons by getting a haircut (George) and a pedicure (Janet).

The next day we made our way to take the local boat from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan, a small and quiet island about an hour away from the mainland. Seeing the boat, we both decided we were finished with wooden water transportation. Little did we know just how finished we would be. It started off wavy right from the start and the nausea set in pretty quickly for me. The boat was very slow so it was that agonizingly slow rocking motion that was the kicker. I wasn't alone - the girl right beside me was having the same issues. We made it 3/4 of the way there but couldn't last until the end and were both hanging off the edge of the boat for the last bit. Let's just say it wasn't worth eating breakfast that morning. George never gets nauseous and he was even feeling it this time. It was horrendous and we were incredibly thankful when it was over. That is, before we learned we'd need to board another boat to get to our hotel!

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if only Lake Ontario was like this - also notice the last wooden boat we will ever take

We finally made it in one piece to our hotel on the side of a cliff and we learned that we'd have the entire place to ourselves, which we were a little unsure about at first but it ended up being very quiet and relaxing. Our first day was spent searching for the perfect beach, which meant walking back and forth through woods, the town, and dirt roads and getting caught in a rain storm. I told George I was not walking anymore on this trip (which ended up being a mistake as you will learn later). When we did get to our preferred beach, Mushroom beach, the water was perfect and we had a great beach day minus a little rain. That night we had dinner at the hotel since it was dark and we've learned not to go into the forest past dark (Nicaragua crab situation) but it was nice to have the place to ourselves and the staff were so incredibly nice it was crazy. Actually, everyone in this country is incredibly nice.

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view from our villa, not too shabby!

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calm waters at mushroom beach

The next day, we decided to rent a motorbike, which is what EVERY tourist does on the island since there are no cars and hardly any traffic and the island is so small. George has never driven one before and we got off to a rocky start (literally - our hotel was connected to a very rocky and muddy path that we barely made it through). Once we reached the main road, things were looking better and I released my death grip around George's waist just a bit. We decided to visit the beaches on the island, the first being Sunset Beach, which was beautiful but definitely not swimmable due to the waves. The next was Dream Beach, which definitely lived up to its name. We stayed here for a while and got completely tossed around like rag dolls by the waves. It was funny watching George get swallowed up by the wave, crawl back up spitting salt water, then go back for more. We had a blast!

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it's pretty easy to stay upright when you aren't moving, and not on mud

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dream beach lives up to it's name

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we don't want to go back to -30C

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george is the black speck

We headed back to Mushroom Beach for calmer waters and then decided to explore the island on the motorbike. We saw mangroves (we're still not exactly sure what these are - we think a forested area?) and insanely crossed what you might call a bridge made up of missing wooden planks to the other side of the island, where there wasn't much to see except more beautiful coastline. Then we had to cross the dreadful bridge again to head back to our hotel. There were many bad patches of road on the island but it seemed like the one leading to our hotel was the worst. The mud and rocks made for a collossal combination and right at the end, we had a little spill, which caused some little scrapes and also a bit of tension. "I told you we would fall!", "I thought we could make it down!" He will argue about this but George is great at many things, driving a motorbike is currently not one of them.

Funnily enough, the next day we had to hop on another motorbike and follow our hotel staff to the spot our boat was leaving from (we opted for the fast boat this time). Despite almost taking another tumble because of a giant rock on the road, we made it to the boat, and finally back to mainland (no breakfast was lost on this ride, although there was some deliberating about the visibility of the rock).

It was a beautiful island and what everyone envisions Bali to be like but maybe doesn't get a chance to see. Now on to Ubud!

Posted by jgjourney 09:24 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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